Passiontide at the Cathedral - Chester Cathedral

Passiontide at the Cathedral

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If you have visited Chester Cathedral during the last few days, you may have noticed some changes in how our building looks.

As a Christian place of worship, we have been following the season of Lent for the last few weeks and now enter Passiontide: the name for the last two weeks of Lent, beginning on the Fifth Sunday of Lent (this year on 17 March). This season commemorates the suffering of Christ and foreshadows the story of his passion (from the Latin word ‘passio’ = “suffering”) and death which will be recounted during Holy Week (the second week of Passiontide), ending on Holy Saturday (also called Easter Eve).

The Cathedral building looks a bit different during this time - all crucifixes, icons and religious images may be covered in veils (usually purple, the colour of vestments in Lent). Palms and other items with descriptions are also dotted around the Cloister for education visits to explore the themes of Lent, and a sculpture that isn’t usually on display is highlighted at the back of the Nave.

Canon Rosie Woodall, Canon for Worship and Spirituality and Vice Dean, explains

If you join us for worship during this time you might notice that the words we use in our services also change to texts which are more appropriate to Passiontide, with more emphasis on talking about the cross and Christ’s suffering. The readings and texts we use start to draw together passages from the Old Testament which foretell of the Messiah’s coming, passion, and Resurrection with New Testament verses that show these narratives being brought to fruition. 

Our choirs sing music for our liturgy and Cathedral life throughout the year, and during Passiontide and Holy Week the tenor of the music chosen also contributes to the mood of the season. The choirs will sing music especially written for Passiontide from a range of composers. Some music is sung during processions and some during the parts of the liturgy where we usually expect music to be sung. There are some great hymns sung during this period too, where you can join in! Some particular musical highlights coming up over the next few weeks include the Nave Choir’s Words and Music for Holy Week (Sunday 24 March, 6pm) which will take us on the entire journey of the passion of Christ through carefully selected texts and music, and the Cathedral Choir’s music for Good Friday (Friday 29 March, 8pm), including Robert White’s Lamentations and Miserere Mei. White was organist at Chester Cathedral between 1566-1570 and this year we celebrate the 450th anniversary of his death.

We are grateful during this time to have been loaned the sculpture ‘Broken Bow’ by artist Stephen Broadbent (who also created our ‘Water of Life’ and Pilgrim Porch installations. ‘Broken Bow’ focuses on the sacrificial love of Mary, the mother of Christ, and has been placed in the Nave as a focal point for visitors and pilgrims to Chester Cathedral throughout Lent, Holy Week, and Easter.

Emily Lanigan-Palotai

Collections & Marketing Engagement Officer

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